Greenland, the world’s largest island, is to vote Tuesday on whether it wants greater independence from Denmark, which colonized it nearly 300 years ago.
Greenland – 2,200,000 square kilometers, or 850,000 square miles, some 80 percent of which is covered by ice – has steadily been gaining more autonomy for decades and has had its own home-rule government since 1979. But it still depends on Denmark for much of its budget and is bound by Danish decisions in a variety of policy areas.
If it passes, the referendum on Tuesday will pave the way for Greenland’s eventual independence from Denmark. The measure would allow Greenlanders to be recognized as a separate people under international law; make the Eskimo-Inuit tongue known as Greenlandic the island’s official language; and give the home-rule government the option of taking more responsibility over areas like justice, defense and foreign affairs.
Perhaps more importantly, a “yes” vote would allow Greenland the opportunity to wean itself from its annual grant of $550 million by giving it control of the revenues from potential oil, gas and mineral finds. Experts say that huge quantities of natural resources are lurking offshore and under Greenland’s melting ice cap, but it remains to be seen exactly what is there and how much it is worth.
Denmark really doesn’t have a great history of equitable relations with its former colonies. I don’t find it at all surprising that Greenlanders move steadily towards independence.
They’ll probably beat Puerto Rico into the U.N..
UPDATE: The turnout was more than 70 percent and almost 76 percent of the voters were in favor.
UPDATE: First day of self-rule, Sunday 21 June 2009